Pony Club’s pride finishes third at Galway Downs

Liz Halliday’s return to Southern California brought her a third-place finish in the three-day eventing competition Nov. 1-3 at Galway Downs in Temecula. Halliday, who was involved with the Fallbrook Pony Club in her youth, graduated from Fallbrook High in 1996. She said she was pleased with her result at Galway Downs.

“That’s pretty good. It’s pretty exciting,” she said.

Three-day eventing consists of dressage the first day, a cross-country course the second day, and stadium jumping the third day. Positions are based on fewest penalty points. Pennsylvania rider Buck Davidson and his horse Petite Flower won the competition with 59.2 points. Northern California’s Jolie Wentworth rode GoodKnight and accumulated 59.7 points. Halliday and her horse, HHS Cooley, had 61.6 points. “Good enough to do the job,” Halliday said.

The fourth-place total of 69.2 points was obtained by Temecula’s Emilee Libby, who rode Nonsensical. Libby had been third entering the final day.

“He gave it everything he had. He stepped up,” Halliday said of her horse.

Halliday had 56 points from the dressage, placing her eighth after the first day. She added 5.6 points to her score in the cross-country phase and was fourth entering the stadium jumping. Halliday, Wentworth, and fifth-place Bunnie Sexton were the only riders with no stadium jumping penalty points.

“He really was fantastic. I wouldn’t fault him at all,” Halliday said of HHS Cooley. “He’s a special horse and I’m lucky to have him.”

Halliday and HHS Cooley were among 17 rider/horse combinations that competed in the elite three-star class, which was a qualification trial for the 2014 World Equestrian Games international championships in Normandy, France. His performance at Galway Downs qualified HHS Cooley for four-star competition. “It is a big accomplishment. He’s come along by leaps and bounds this year,” Halliday said.

Although HHS Cooley qualified for the World Equestrian Games, a selection process will determine the United States team. “I wouldn’t expect him to be chosen for the World because he’s only a nine-year-old and he’s pretty inexperienced,” Halliday said. “He’s only just come up to this level recently.”

Halliday, who has other horses, wasn’t planning on HHS Cooley participating in next year’s World Equestrian Games. “I have big hopes for him in the future,” Halliday said. “I’m thinking of him more for the 2016 Olympics.”

Halliday has had HHS Cooley for about 2 1/2 years. “I brought him up from the very lowest level,” she said.

“We have a really good partnership now,” Halliday said. “He’s a very good horse and I like him a lot.”

Halliday grew up in Fallbrook. She took her first riding lessons at Spanish Spur Stables and joined the Fallbrook Pony Club in her childhood. In 1992, Halliday competed with the Southern California team in the show jumping national championships.

After graduating from Fallbrook High, Halliday attended the University of California, Santa Barbara. In 1999 she participated in the first Galway Downs horse trials.

“It was like homecoming in more ways than one,” Halliday said of her 2013 competition at Galway Downs.

In January 2000, Halliday moved to England after obtaining a training position with William Fox-Pitt. She has lived in England since then.

Last month, Halliday represented the United States in the Nations Cup competition in the Netherlands. The eventing competition at Galway Downs was the final Northern Hemisphere event of the year, and discussion turned to Halliday returning to Southern California. Halliday made the decision to compete at Galway Downs. “I think it was the best thing I could have done,” she said.

“It was incredible to have family and friends,” Halliday said. “All my old friends from Pony Club were around. It was amazing.”

Halliday had not been on a horse in California since 1999. “I’m so glad I did it,” she said.

Halliday’s next competition will be with a different horse in Portugal at the end of February. Her next planned competition with HHS Cooley will be the Comite Equestre de Saumur in Saumur, France, in late May.

“The heaviest competition is in Europe,” Halliday said. “I feel like I have to stay there.”

She hasn’t yet determined when she will return to Galway Downs. “I’d love to, but it’s pretty tough to fly horses over,” she said. “I’d love to come back. It would be great.”

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